The first thing that strikes me about Devin Poteet is a drawl in his speech that resides somewhere between Southern and Midwestern.
The “Loser Bracket Warrior,” as he was affectionately coined within the pool circuit for his ability comeback after a first round loss, is a 17 year old pool phenom from Paragould, Arkansas. Like most teenagers, Devin is a man of few words, but he graciously granted me an opportunity to speak with him about the game that rules his life.
Q: When did you first begin playing pool?
Devin: I began playing around 12 or 13.
Q: How did you become interested in playing?
Devin: My Dad and my Uncle play.
Q: Did one of them help guide you when you first began playing?
Devin: Actually neither one of them really helped me. I just went to the pool halls, watched them play and started shooting on my own.
Q: When did you start taking pool seriously?
Devin: When I was 13, I played in a tournament and double-dipped my Dad (a term used to describe winning against a player twice in the same tournament). After that, I really fell in love with pool and began taking it seriously. When I turned 14, I started to travel a little bit and playing in more tournaments.
Q: What is your favorite part of the pool game?
Devin: I would have to say the competition and the stress-relief that it gives me.
Q: You recently came in Third at the 26th Annual Junior National 9 Ball Championships, how did it feel to be crowned as one of the top three junior 9 Ball players in the Country?
Devin: It felt good because it was my first time competing in Junior Nationals. I wasn’t playing very well and I actually lost my first match, but I was able to tough it out and come all the way back through the losers bracket. I usually play better out of the loser’s bracket.
Q: You’re headed to Shanghai, China for the 2014 WPA World Junior 9-Ball Championships. Will this be the largest tournament in which you have competed?
Devin: I don’t know that it will be the largest, but it is definitely a different type of pressure. It’s the first time that I’ve traveled out of the country to compete.
Q: Have to done anything different to prepare for Junior Worlds?
Devin: I have been watching videos of the kids who have competed in Junior Worlds over the past two years. I’ve also been putting more time in on my breaks, trying to practice them a couple of hours each day. If I’m drilling and I miss a shot, I will set it up over and over until I can hit it.
Q: What’s your proudest achievement to date?
Devin: Making Team U.S.A. for Junior Worlds.
Q: What are some of your pre-tournament rituals?
Devin: I like to get to the tournament early and play on the tables to see how they are breaking. If there’s a big table, I like to jump on, set up shots and try to get focused.
Q: When you choose your first shot at an open table, have you already seen your run to last ball, or do you like to focus on smaller runs?
Devin: If I’m playing 9 or 10 ball, I look at the entire rack and see how I want to run it. I have my run planned out in my head from the first ball to the last. When I play 8 ball, I usually play the pattern backwards. I start at the 8 ball and work my run all the way to the first ball I shoot.
Q: What is your cue and shaft of choice?
Devin: I shoot with a Mitchell Thomas cue—he’s my sponsor. I’m currently using a Katana performance shaft.
Q: Do you find that other players tend to underestimate you because you are so young?
Devin: Every once in a while, but usually within the first couple of hours they find out who I am. I’m pretty well known in the Midwest.
Q: Is there one specific part of your game at which you feel you excel?
Devin: It would have to be my banks and my kicks. They help me a lot in my 9 Ball tournaments. Many other players are afraid to bank or kick. I’m not, and because of that, I run out.
Q: What is one specific part of your game with which you still struggle?
Devin: I struggle with staying down sometimes—I get into a rhythm and jump up. It has definitely costs me at times. I’m working on slowing down and taking my time.
Q: Do you always keep your games friendly, or do you put money on them from time to time?
Devin: Yes, I do put money on them from time to time.
Q: Do you walk away with a little gas money from those games?
Devin: And then some.
Q: Do you follow the same practice routine each time, or do you like to mix it up?
Devin: I usually do something different each time. Some days I will just practice my breaks, other days I will throw balls out and bank, or set up drills.
Q: Jump or Masse?
Devin: If it’s a quarter ball or less, I like to masse. If it’s a half to whole ball, I prefer to jump.
Q: Do you get nervous?
Devin: I used to, but I’ve competed so much that the nerves don’t get to me anymore. In Junior Nationals, I was more nervous than usual because there were so many people watching, and I was competing with kids for the first time, so I was more competitive. It helped to make friends with all of the players that I have never met before and stay as focused as possible.
Q: I know that you’re a pretty tall guy. Do you find that your height is an advantage?
Devin: It can be sometimes. Quite frankly I would rather be a little bit shorter because at 6’4”, it’s hard to get down and be level with the table.
Q: If you could play a game of pool with any pool player, who would it be?
Devin: Efran Reyes. I have always loved his game.
Q: Where would you like to go to College?
Devin: I’d like to go to Lindenwood College in Missouri and play under Mark Wilson.
Q: What is your favorite subject in school, other than girls?
Devin: Does lunch count?
Q: What is your loftiest pool goal?
Devin: To win a US Open.
Q: In ten years, where do you see yourself as a pool player?
Devin: As one of the top five players in the world.
Q: What advice would you give to young kids that want to start playing pool, or have just begun playing?
Devin: I see a lot of kids get upset. I would tell them to stay calm, it’s just a game and if you’re not having fun then don’t play.
Q: That’s all of my questions. What else should our readers know about Devin Poteet?
Devin: I never give up, I play with a lot of heart, and I always respect my opponent.
I am sure that we will be seeing much more from Devin Poteet in the future. He is a rising star in the pool world, and a pleasure to interview.